Types of Guitar picks
This article is about choosing the right type of pick (Plectrum) for your guitar. Not all guitar picks are the same size or shape and they are all made out of different materials. Just by choosing the right pick you can help change the sound and feel of your song you are playing. Depending on your style of music and the instrument you’re playing will depend on what type of pick you should use. Hopefully this article will give you an idea to help you make your choice.
Guitar picks come in about five different sizes:
- 1. Extra light (About 0.44mm)
- 2. Light
- 3. Medium
- 4. Heavy
- 5. Extra heavy (About 1.50mm)
As for the materials of picks they can be made out of almost anything. I won’t go into all of the types of materials because there are too many, so instead I’ll just name a few of the most popular ones to give you an idea:
- 1. Plastic- ranging from Nylon, Acrylic, and Celluloid,
- 2. Bone- They can also be made out of shell or ivory,
- 3. Metal- steel is mostly used but they can also be made out of copper as well.
Light picks VS Heavy picks
Using a lighter pick will give you a brighter happier tone, and in my opinion they are easier to use because the pick is so thin and flexible it allows it to pass through the strings a bit more smoothly to help you play faster. However, thin picks also have a chance of breaking faster because they don’t have as much durability due to their low density. I once had a pick break on me while I was strumming lightly because it was so thin, however it was also one of my favorite picks because of the light clear tone that it produced.
A thick or heavy pick has a deeper tone and has a bit more weight to it when you hold it in your fingers. I never feel like the pick will flop out of my hands while I’m holding a thick pick. With more aggressive types of music you want a pick that has durability so that you can really strum hard and give it your all to get that nice crunchy sound you normally hear in rock music. A light pick wouldn’t be very good for that style of music because it will more than likely break half way through the song from the force of strumming.
Metal picks are the best in terms of durability, but they can also cut into lighter gauge strings and can cause them to snap if you are used to playing pretty hard. Alternatively, a really thick gauge of strings can chip away at bone and lighter gauge picks and will eventually start to wear them down over time until they break.
Choosing the right pick
I normally change picks based on the sound I’m looking for. I’ll use medium plastic picks majority of the time because they give a nice even tone and have a nice balance in terms of sound quality and durability. In my opinion they are the most versatile in terms of switching between playing styles, but different people have different needs and will need to choose their pick accordingly.
Rock and heavy metal players that use thick strings should probably use a nice strong durable pick that won’t snap while they are playing, so a heavy pick would match that style of music. If you aren’t too heavy handed you could also try using a slightly lighter gauge pick to compensate for the thick gauge of strings to balance out the sound.
If you play lead guitar and play a lot of solos and you don’t want the song to sound so deep, a medium pick might be a good choice to get a nice even tone and you will also be able to keep your speed without the pick snapping in half.
If you have medium or light gauge strings and you want to play a slow Country song or soft rock music to get a clear and lighter sound, you may want to go with a light or extra light gauge pick to get that soft sound you are looking for. Just remember to play softly so that the pick doesn’t break.
A lot of this information is also purely player preference and people will do the opposite of everything that I just named above simply because they think that certain picks feel and sound better, so you can’t go choosing a pick based on what someone else says. Try switching picks based on the song you are playing and the type of strings that are on your guitar to find the perfect feel and sound that you are looking for.
Now day’s picks come with a lot of extra features like comfort thumb grips and high friction coatings that you might find to be helpful, but those things will also increase the price tag a bit. My advice is to buy a handful of different picks and use them all to find the one that sounds and feels the best for your type of music and playing style, and switch between them based on the song you are currently playing and the type of strings that are on your guitar. You will quickly find the combination that works best for you.
Most picks (depending on the music store) will start at about 25 to 50 cents per pick and will escalate from there depending on the material, style and brand you choose. You can also buy a bundle pack of picks for about $2.00 that will give you a nice selection to experiment with.
Have more information about guitar picks? Share your knowledge in the comments section.